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A generation apart



Sir M. Ct. Muthiah Chettiar

THE 21 years M.Ct. Pethachi has served as the Honorary Consul for Finland in South India were recently recognised when he was awarded the Finnish honour, Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland. The presentation was made by Ambassador for Finland in India Glen Lindholm at a private reception.

I don't know whether Finnish knights are addressed by the honorific equivalent of `Sir', but there certainly was one member of the M.Ct. family who was addressed with the title that went with a British knighthood. And that was S. Rm.M.Ct.Muthiah Chettiar, Pethachi's grandfather.

Sir Muthiah Chettiar was the first Nattukottai Chettiar to be knighted, being honoured in 1922 when he was Sheriff of Madras and had received the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). When he died young in 1929, barely 40, the role he had played in Madras life was forgotten. Memories of him, though, remain in the school that was in difficulties when he took over and which his son Chidambaram re-named the M.Ct. Muthiah Chettiar School and nurtured as one of the leading educational institutions in the Purasawalkam area.

The second Chettiar to be addressed as `Sir' was Sir Muthiah Chettiar's uncle, S. Rm. M. Annamalai Chettiar, who was knighted in 1923 and on whom the British also conferred the unique title of a hereditary Rajah in 1929, the year he founded the Annamalai University. Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar's son, Muthiah Chettiar, the first modern Mayor of Madras, was also knighted, giving the S.Rm. family the unique distinction of three knighthoods in two generations.

Pethachi, who has long been associated with Travancore Rayons which his father had established in 1945/46 - the first synthetic yarn factory between Europe and Japan and the first major industry to go on stream in the South after Independence - has had, through the business, a long association with Finland. Pulp for the factory was almost entirely imported from Finland for many years. And Pethachi continues to remain an annual visitor to Finland.

S. MUTHIAH

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